Welcome to Instagram!

Well team – I’m delighted to announce that Bicycles Create Change is now on Instagram!

As you know, last month Bicycles Create Change celebrated it’s 1-year blog anniversary. It has been important to me to spend this year focusing on laying down some solid ground work to establish this blog. I have been reluctant to branch out into other social media platforms. Mostly because of time constraints given my PhD research, teaching load and other commitments, but also I am conscious of not wearing myself too thin and possibility diluting my passion and quality of content.

 

Instagram Origins

With this in mind, I recently had a conversation with a new acquaintance, who is a fashion designer. We were discussing different social media and I had mentioned my blog. She told me she was on Instagram and explained that as a fashion designer she more visually driven and so Instagram was ideal for her to share her identity, experiences and ideas. I asked her to show me some of the functions and was I pleasantly surprised at its simplicity. She ended our informal tutorial by saying ‘If you were on Instagram I’d follow you’.

 

A Different Medium

So on the 1-year anniversary, Bicycles Create Change branched out into Instagram – you can find me there at @Bicycles Create Change.

It has been a very interesting addition and I appreciate the different medium and what photos have to offer as far as expressing color, movement, places and moods – something which at times can be more challenging to express through writing. I have also been amazed at the effort that some people on Instagram put into the photos they upload. The quality and intensity of some of the images are remarkable and I’ve found it to be a great way to connect a whole new range and group of people.

 

Welcome to Instagram

I admit to going down the rabbit hole for a good week, checking out some of the amazing pictures, following leads and picture ‘crumbs’, exploring who is around and what they are posting. I’ve been revisiting some of my old biking trips for pictures and am certainly taking a few more photos when I’m out and about riding.

It’s been great being able to post my own images on Instagram that have not made it onto the blog (see below). I appreciate how the blog (text) and Instagram (images) are complementary as communicative mediums. Utilising Instagram has been an interesting development and I’m looking forward to seeing what might eventuate.

Thank you to those who have found and followed Bicycles Create Change on Instagram already. If you are on Instagram – drop in and check it out!

 

Instagram

 

Instagram

 

Instagram

 

Instagram

Increasing returned veterans’ social connection with bicycles

This is Bob.

I met Bob when he was out for his regular afternoon Bayside ride. I was returning from my afternoon ride, and when I first saw him, Bob and his friends were coming towards me in the opposite direction. He caught my eye, mostly because his riding group was a little unusual – they had a tandem out front followed by a couple of homemade recumbents,  of which Bob was on one. As a group they made quite and unusual sight!

Bob is a ex-serviceman who rides his homemade bike everyday with mates. In many ways his ride is just like any other group routine rides, but in others his story is special. For me it raises the critical issue of healthy social transition of returned veterans back into society – and the role that bicycles can play as means of facilitating increased social connections and rehabilitation for returned war veterans..

Returned Veterans making headway on two wheels

Bob and his recumbent

As is my style, I hailed him down and asked him about his bike. He was very happy to have a chat, and we ended up talking for a while.

Bob is a local to the bayside area and rides the foreshore every afternoon. He’s a war veteran and after an operation six years ago he was not able to ride upright, so he started riding recumbents.

To keep busy, Bob made his own recumbent which he usually rides, but today he was on his mates’ homemade recumbent as his was being repaired. He was lamenting not having his own bike today, as his mates’ recumbent seat did not fit him as well as his own does – being handmade, the seat he was in was not adequately adjustable to fit his size difference. But, that wasn’t going to stop him.

Most afternoons Bob and his mates go for a ride. Bob said they often ride together and raise a few eyebrows, not only because of the recumbent, but also because they were homemade. We continued chatting for a while about bike-related experiences and the said good bye.

Again, after hearing his story, I was blown away by the unexpected and amazing stories that people have about their bicycles. It also highlighted the unique bond the riders share in their common interest and recognition for the importance of bicycles in so any people’s lives.

 

Bob’s legacy

Bob’s story stayed with me for a few reasons. Aside from having the nous make his own road-worthy recumbent (which is impressive in itself), I was particularly moved when hearing about Bob’s experience of being a war veteran and his operation. It reminded me that you can never guess a person’s motivation to ride a bike, or what need it fulfils.

But more importantly, as a community member I really benefited from meeting Bob – I wanted to hear his story and ideas about his bike, his social rides and whatever he felt comfortable to tell me. I think when there is a natural, genuine and organic meeting between people, it can vastly improve how relaxed and ‘normal’ the interaction is. We also had a common love of bikes to chat about -but if we didn’t I would never have stopped to talk to Bob and I would have missed making a very valuable connection.

I can’t speak for Bob, but I really enjoyed meeting him. It was relaxed and interesting.I felt connect to my community, that I was richer for it too. I’ll give him a wave next time I see him as we whiz by – because that’s what people do in healthy communities -they recognise each other. It was not so much that Bob was an ex-serviceman, but that meeting Bob reminded me of the diversity in life and experiences that are in every community – that some groups are less recognised than others. I wondered where or who the other ‘Bobs’ were in our communities. Who else is isolated from social interaction? So many.

I hope those who need or want some social connection gets on a bike. Whether its loneliness, disability, depression or you just need some fresh air and a break – seems like going for a ride is non-threatening, easy and quick way to make a contact if you want to. What I like to call a ‘wave-buddy’. I’m not mates with Bob and I don’t know him, but next time I see I’ll wave and say.

On this blog I’ve posted on projects where bicycles are used to help Dads n Lads build better relationships, the elderly get out and mobile, and help increase bike riding and skills for people with disabilities, aboriginal school kids and other marginalised community members worldwide. After talking to Bob, the invisible impact and pervasiveness of how returned war veterans integrate back into society is a very real issue for many that I had not fully considered as being linked to benefiting from bicycles before.

Bicycles are useful, accessible and practical for a vast array of applications to pretty meet pretty much any social need, but using them as a social service and integration measure for returned veterans was not the first idea that sprang to mind. So my meeting with Bob really gave me something to think about and made me stop and to ponder other hidden demographics in our community that be overlooked, under-represented or inconspicuous to most other community member.

 

Returned veterans

It seems to me that returned war vets are all but invisible in our communities. I know they exist and some people might even know one, but their experiences are often so unique and unfathomable by most that it is no wonder that many service men find it difficult to recovery and have a  normal social life. But it seems to me that many of the bridging programs supporting returned veterans’ reintegration into society are either intensely personal consultations – like therapy and debriefing – which are understandably only privy to, or strategic social interventions focused on building and maintain relationships with immediate family members, such as spouses and kids. From my initial research into returned vet services, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot helping vets as individuals create their connections with wider community members.

The Mates 4 Mates program is an exception and an exemplar model of bringing vets together to get out and do social activities together – especially as it is focused on physical activities in public spaces. So this is where bikes could be useful. I have no doubt the they would have already had some longer organised riders (like annual charity fundraisers types), but was more curious to see if they had any smaller, regular social riders around local communities.

 

Why not more local community rides?

Bike riding is not for everyone, but neither is sailing a yacht. At least cycling is more accessible and familiar to most people, so is less threatening and more convenient. Also, once experienced riding a bike can be done individually and part of a group. As in Bob’s case, riding a bike and getting returned veterans out to do something active with their mates in the community seems like a support service area that is underutilised. I appreciate not all vets would be into riding, nor want to participate in civic interactions – but at least for those like Bob who do – recreational biking is a productive, healthy, outdoor alternative that can lead to even greater well-being, social contact and improved livelihoods. Just as men’s sheds are bringing older men together, perhaps there is an opportunity for bikes to do the same for returned veterans.

So next time you are out for ride – be sure to wave to those going past. Include and recognise your fellow riders, who ever they are –  give them a nod and look in the eye – maybe even start up a conversation – you never know who you might meet! After all we are cyclists that make up our cycling community – so what kind of community do you want it to be?

Turkey’s Fancy Women On Bikes

Theis story of Fancy Women On Bikes was sent through to me by a very dear friend MK, with whom I share a passion for positive action. MK sent this post after seeing it in the A Mighty Girl Facebook page and knew it that the floral, bicycle and social justice combination is right up my alley.  It is such a comprehensive post that I contacted A Mighty Girl and gained their permission to repost it here as a Guest Post in its entirety. Thanks to MK and A Mighty Girl for sharing such an important and colourful story with us all – NG.


 

Guest post by A Might Girl (3rd November 2016 ay 10.22). A Might Girl is a forum that provides a fantastic array of resources, stories and material to support families and communities to raise more intelligent, confident, and courageous girls.

 

Thousands of women — wearing flowers in their hair and riding elaborately decorated bicycles — took to the streets of cities across Turkey to proclaim women’s right to cycle free from harassment or bullying. The women, who call themselves “Fancy Women On Bikes” or Süslü Kadinlar Bisiklet Turu, were riding to raise awareness of the intimidation and harassment that many women are subjected to while cycling. Sema Gur, the founder of the movement, says learning to ride a bike at the age of 38 changed her life: “I can go to places that I wouldn’t walk or drive to,” she asserts. “I can stop, slow down, smell the things around me, talk to people, and be more mindful and healthy too… It’s a freedom like no other.” After Gur connected with other female cyclists who had grown frustrated by the status quo, the “Fancy Women on Bikes” movement was born to unite women in reclaiming their right to public spaces with the simple yet powerful message: “We should go wherever we want, dress however we like, be visible, yet not be disturbed.”

According to Banu Gokariksel, a feminist scholar of geography at the University of North Carolina, the changing political climate in Turkey has made the need for social movements like “Fancy Women on Bikes” even more important. “The rising social conservatism in Turkey in the recent years deteriorated women’s public status and freedom. With harassment and road bullying, women are denied their rights to the city,” explains Gokariksel. Gur, like many other female cyclists, frequently experiences catcalls, threats, and road rage, even in her liberal hometown of Izmir — and in more conservative areas, some women were being intimidated into stopping cycling altogether.

“Women’s visibility in urban spaces is key to reclaim that right to the city,” says Gokariksel. “Cycling is a particularly powerful way to do that – because it exposes a woman’s body in the traffic. It leaves them vulnerable in a way, but changes the way they interact with the city. Regardless of their backgrounds, transportation is a big issue for all women around the world. Women being able to peacefully ride bikes isn’t a trivial thing. This movement can trigger bigger changes, if it can overcome the differences such as class, religion, ideology and ethnicity.”

With “Fancy Women on Bikes” rides recently taking place in 26 provinces throughout the country, the group knows it’s making an impact both in encouraging individual women to feel more comfortable about riding on their own and in sending the message that women will not allow themselves to be intimidated off the roads. Gur knows that not all of the women who participated this time will become regular riders, but she believes that their movement will lead to lasting change. “You cannot bring patriarchy down overnight by simply cycling, of course,” she says. “But it’s a start and it’s what we can do. [When we were on the bikes] thousands of people saw us. Now perhaps they will be less surprised when they see a woman riding a bicycle and treat us better.”

To read more about Fancy Women On Bikes movement on The New York Times, visit http://nyti.ms/2e09ElZ – or check out their Facebook page at Süslü Kadınlar Bisiklet Turu

For a fascinating book about how bicycles became a tool of women’s liberation in the early women’s right movement in America, we highly recommend “Wheels of Change: How Women Rode The Bicycle To Freedom (With A Few Flat Tires Along The Way)” for ages 10 to 14 at http://www.amightygirl.com/wheels-of-change

For an excellent film about a young Saudi girl who dreams of greater freedom — in the form of having a bicycle of her own in a country where women are banned from freely riding bikes in public — we highly recommend “Wadjda”, for ages 9 and up at http://www.amightygirl.com/wadjda — or stream it online at http://amzn.to/2ef9h2p

Wadjda’s story has also been released as a book for ages 10 to 13, “The Green Bicycle,” at http://www.amightygirl.com/the-green-bicycle

For a fun picture book celebrating the joy and freedom that cycling brings, check out “Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen” for ages 4 to 8 at http://www.amightygirl.com/sally-jean-the-bicycle-queen

And, for our favorite t-shirt celebrating fierce Mighty Girls like the “Fancy Women”, check out the “Though She Be But Little She Is Fierce” t-shirt — available in a variety of styles and colors for all ages at http://www.amightygirl.com/fierce-t-shirt

Source: A Mighty Girl
Source: A Mighty Girl

UN: Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report

Today’s post focuses on the recent UN: Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report by the UN Transportation department. The report is officially entitled Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling: policies a & realities from around the world and was released September 2016. This 70-page report is focuses on investigating issues of active urban transportation in middle and low-income countries. It outlines current major road accident risks, and describes some effective interventions that are being employed to save lives and increase mobility for improved future livelihoods.

 

UN: Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report

It identifies a few key concerns that are no surprises

  • active transport is safer
  • better for the environment
  • uptake is restricted due to a lack of infrastructure and investment
  • unsafe roads are a major social issue
  • increasing impact and amount of road deaths
  • transport is a key issue as it generates nearly ¼ of all carbon dioxide emission and is the largest contributor of greenhouse gases

Handy Acronyms for dinner parties
NMT– (Non-motorized transport) – such as walking, cycling animal carts, skateboarding, cycle rickshaw, hand-carts
IMT (Intermediate Modes of Transportation) is a broad term for low-cost transport that essentially fills the mobility gaps needs between walking and having a car. So push bikes are included as are low engine-capacity motorbikes and tricycles often with adaptions such as side cars, trailers and other load bearing modifications.
SDG – UN Sustainable Development Goals

Data collection
Stakeholders from government and civil society in 20 countries were surveyed three times over a 3-month period (March – May 2016). Stakeholders were invited to suggest other research participants as well to expand the research pool.

I thought it was interesting that in the data collection, only ‘stakeholders’ were invited to participate. So this means only people from ‘a range of independent or university institutes, global agencies, non-government organisations, consultants, individual activists or government officials’ participated in this study. The rationale given was that they these people were ‘more likely to have insight into and knowledge of NMT policy status and access to data in their region, country or city’ (p 10).

Summary of key findings

  • 1.3 million people died in road accidents last year = one every 30 seconds.
  • Need for nations/cities to have some level of (national) NMT commitment
  • Increase in global awareness to the intersection of poverty and transportation about the UN SDGs.

 

Key NMT policy themes

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016
Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016
Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016
Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016

 

What are the current types of NMY commitment – Transport Policy, funding policies for facilities, National Policy, Infrastructure Acts, related-by-laws, Strategic Frameworks, etc.

Type of supporting policies that will support the overall NMT commitments: vehicle parking restrictions, public transportation and all kinds of policies such as traffic calming, enforcement, education, budgets, encouragement policies, end-of-trip and others.

Local MNT planning – putting people before transport, favouring NMT over motorised transport, network establishment, safe infrastructure, increase mode shares, regulations and enforcement, more equitable allocation of road space, encouraging greater NMT, options of financial assistance for increased NMT use.

The quality of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure– across the board, current bicycle infrastructure is “almost routinely to be of poor or haphazard quality, disconnected and insufficiently part of a network” with only a few exceptions in South Africa and Brazil (p 25).

Funding for NMT – Nairobi (Kenya) is the only place to “commit to ensuring 20% of its existing and future road construction budget is allocated to NMT and public transport infrastructure and services” (p 26).

Data quality and institutional capacity – data is a major substantive gap in NMT planning and for transportation planning

 

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016
Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016

 

Other interesting discussion points were
-public transport transformation or improvement
-Focus on vulnerable groups in African NMT policies
-Impact and stats on road deaths

Quotables from the report

  • A key government official from one of Africa’s largest economies told us that ‘the use of cars … is based on a colonial legacy of associating motorised transportation with education, affluence and elevated status in society. Therefore, the attitude towards NMT tends towards negativity. Thus the use of bicycles, walking and wheeling are associated with the poor’ (p 35).
  • Nigerian transport officials have described to us how ‘acquiring a car is a goal for most citizens who believe riding a bicycle [or walking] is less safe, less convenient, and less attractive, making the forecast decline of NMT a self-fulling prophecy….’ (p 35).
  • When speaking about India – ‘The marginalisation [of NMT] is seen in the backdrop of an emerging automobile culture linked with rising incomes, post-liberalisation and skewed notions of modernity. The continued dominance of motorised modes seeks to claim a larger share of road space mirroring the social power structure’ (Joshi & Joseph 35).

Outcomes and recommendations
The report then concludes with a country NMT summary for each of the participating nations, that identifies:
1. National NMT commitments
2. Civic society and social enterprise
3. For some countries, there is a focus box with extra details on a pertinent issue, facts, project or factors – which are insightful and very pertinent.

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016
Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016

 

The UN: Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report goes to the heart of my PhD research, and I was very excited when I found it. To date, it has been frustrating for me as a researcher investigating the intersection of poverty, gender, culture and location – as there has been such recognition gap in the academic and grey literature about the impact of transportation on rural and impoverished countries. With publications like this report, access and use of bicycles are now (finally) gaining attention. Such a pity it took until this year for such a report to be published- but better now than never!

I like this report as it is clear, informative and easy to digest. It condenses critical content well and is also unique in having what I think, is quite a positive view for future transportation improvements.This report will go a long way in promoting and communicating the complexities, restrictions and issues involved in people being able/not to access transport, as this is such a critical development issue – there is no point building more health clinics and hospitals if people cannot physically get there to benefit from such services!

Well done UN Transport department on your thoughtful and informative report – it is wonderful to see bicycles (and walking) being placed firmly on the international development policy agenda.

 

Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016
Source: UN Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling Report 2016

Defcon’s Nov Social MTB Ride

Yesterday I went to Gap Greek (Brisbane) for Defcon’s Nov Social MTB Ride.

I got there with husband before the 8 am kickoff and ended up having a great chat to a handful of other riders who had made it there on time. The main cohort joined us a little later and we took off for our ride. There was about 30 in our mob, all different ages, bikes and abilities, and although it didn’t change my ride, I was yet again the only female rider.

The riding itself was good. I like riding Gap Creek. I was looking forward to seeing some of the crew. There was a general group plan of what we were all going to ride, with key points for the group to rendezvous. The fast boys went ahead to cut laps or project sections, with the rest of us zooming around at our own pace. Some riders got a little waysided at a few intersections, but there was always someone else coming down that pointed them in the right direction. It was a really diverse group of riders, fitness levels and quite a show of bikes, which was great to see – after all  Defcon specialises in Intense, Banshee, Evil and Ibis, so there were quite a few sweet models milling around. After riding a full loop and exchanging some happy banter in between, it was back to HQ for a breakfast BBQ and hang out time.

 

Roast chicken

For me it was good to be back on the big bike. After having a season off the Intense and riding singlespeed, it was quite different getting back on  plush full suspension, a dropper-seat and a bike that is so responsive and capable. I, on the other hand, was not as capable as my bike. I was feeling the sting of a full week of fitness challenges that I had thrown myself head-long into, which were slowing me down. I kept hydrated, but didn’t eat enough for the intensity of the ride.

By the end – the 35C heat and crazy Queensland humidity ended up knocking me around a bit. I was fine for the ride and for the BBQ, but when we decided to go, we ticked back up Dingo and the steep fire road to where we had parked at the ABC tower. By then it was full midday heat. By the time I got to the car, I was well and truly cooked.

 

Defcon’s Nov Social MTB Ride – what’s what

I had a good time riding, and I made a point of chatting with a few familiar faces and introducing myself to a few new ones – after all, it was a social ride! It is always interesting to me how riders interact on social rides; who they talk to; why they came; what they get out of it; how much they give away; levels of interaction.

I felt relaxed and confident, so I was in my element. I was happy to quib in places, happy to cruise in others. I know the Defcon team riders because we had raced some of the SEQ Enduro together over Summer. I also knew a few other faces from events and other rides, but there were a few new faces I didn’t know, and I found myself wondering if, for a change,  they would introduce themselves to me.

This is always an interesting aspect for me, because usually without fail when out riding in a group like this with guys I don’t know – they will very rarely come up and introduce themselves to me. If I am standing with others, then I might get introduced as a member of the group (i.e., everyone is swapping names). But I am rarely the sole recipient of someone coming up to introduce themselves specifically to initiate conversation just with me. I do it to others, but it is rarely, if ever the other way.

 

3 Social dynamics

For a social ride, it was fascinating to watch other curious dynamics present – my ethnographic researcher brain rarely switches off! So as well as having fun riding the big bike and enjoying having gears, these are three observations that kept me entertained on the day:

1. Who can (and does) hold a conversation for longer than 5 minutes that does not relate to bikes (and with whom and about what). People who know me, know this is a staple interest for me. I appreciate it is a social ride and thus centres exclusively on bikes as the commonality – hence the interest to see if conversations outside of this topic occurs! For me, it means the interlocutors are potentially testing each other to engage in new topics outside of the obvious and easy – suggesting an extension beyond the immediate (and safe) connection of bikes. The most common topics I see this happening with are; work, movies or music, maybe family – but rarely other topics.

It is equally interesting to see the conversation moves – who starts conversations, who talks to who, for how long and about what. Who mingles, who is more reserved. Are people brave enough to introduce themselves to totally new people outside of the host managing interaction and introductions. How long are conversations with new people sustained for? Is humour used to break the ice – and if so does it work – it is a tricky tactic to use – in case it goes wrong. All manner of interesting social cues, moves and dynamics were happening – enough to keep the most scrupulous of sociologists happy!
2. Reaction to banter and shenanigans
I’m a big fan of the trail banter – when done well. There is a difference between slagging someone off and witty repertoire. It is always interesting to see how people react to another’s banter. Who has the confidence (and authority) to pass entertaining and perceptive witticisms and on what topics?

Humour is critical for group cohesion, refreshment and distraction – it helps identify character, provides clear indications as to taboos or boundaries, and often sets a groups’ tone. When it is done well and is genuinely funny and clever, it can entertain and raise the mood of the group. On this day, we had a few wags having a good crack – with husband leading the charge – and it was very interesting to see people’s reactions, interactions, follow ups (if any) and who deferred participation in the face of cheeky overt sagacity. What are people comfortable with sharing, how is it received and what impact/if any does it have on the collective?
3. Elder elephant influence
A phenomenon was observed, whereby park keepers had to remove the elder male elephants from the rest of the herd in a wildlife park in Africa. The remaining juvenile male elephants began getting violent and destructive – hurting themselves and causing extreme damage and killing other animals. The keepers reintroduced the older males and the bad behaviour stopped. The moral is that younger males socialise better when they are in the presence of older males and thus can learn acceptable social behaviour. (Amazing full story here).

On the Defcon team there is one junior, a young hot-shot rider called S. I like S because he loves riding, is always out on team and social rides, and can hold a conversation. I think there is great value in mentoring juniors, but this needs to be done in a strategic and purposeful way.  It is not just having out with ‘the guys to go riding’  there needs to be more to it than that. Much as Steve Bidoff recommends in his remarkable book Raising Boys and as exemplified recently in the powerful 3 part TV series Man Up (episode 2 is amazing for young men S’s age)– the importance of young boys having positive older role models who are not their fathers is critical to positive masculine development and socialisation through sports. Every time I see S, I smile. I think he is a very lucky kid and he is definitely making the most of being in the company of the other older riders – for motivation, for veneration and for socialisation. To this end, I can see the immense value that MTBing and these kinds of social ride provide in socially scaffolding and appraising bike-civic behaviour – and social interaction in general.

 

img_3029

Thanks heaps to Stu from Defcon for putting on the ride and BBQ.  He is so welcoming and inclusive. Great to see all the other stirling lads as well who came out to ride, have fun and share a laugh on such a super hot day.

So next time you attend a social ride, check in see if you can spot any of these dynamics. What other social dynamics are most obvious to you when you ride in a group?

But, don’t get too serious … after all, you’re there to have fun with your mates. So relax and get happy riding!

2016 Super Sunday Recreational (Bike) count

In a couple of days, on Sunday 13th November, Australia’s Bicycle Network is undertaking its  annual bike path user audits. These counts are done each year to collect bicycle use data that help local councils accurately monitor and plan for current and future bicycle path use and infrastructure. This week will be the Super Sunday Recreational Bike Count.

Each year nationally, there is a Super Tuesday Commuter Bike Count (usually held in March) and a Super Sunday Recreational Count. These counts contribute to informing and guiding bike riding investment and initiatives across Australia and local councils self-nominate to participate. It is always interesting to which are the progressive councils that opt in and see the value and necessity of investigating urban bike path use (ideas to consider when you are looking at buying your next property?). It is great to see a rise in the number of local councils participating in this initiative, but yet again, not bloody enough interest or effort from QLD authorities to support ANY type of bike use!

As a research and activist working at the intersection of bicycles and community development – these kinds of initiatives are right up my alley. Although they may seem lame to some, the political and policy making power that this kind of data can leverage would be surprising to the average joe.

If you have ever found yourself muttering about the condition or lack of bike paths, or about the absence of council support and understanding for your particular bike riding needs – this is a small, but proactive and immediate action you can take to effect sustainable and positive change in your local area.

 

Specifics about the 2016 Super Sunday Recreational Bike Count.

This particular audit is being held in various locations in Australia this Sunday 13th Nov from 9 am – 1 pm (7-11am in NT & QLD) to ascertain:

  1. numbers of uses on trails and paths
  2. Which trails and paths are being used
  3. When trails are being used and by/with whom

To collect this qualitative data, a visual count of recreational bike riders and other users of the bike paths is required. To this end, the Bicycle Network has sent out an invitation for volunteers to help count and monitor selected sites to count rider (and other user) movements through particular sites. All equipment is provided.

 

What do I get out of it?

Although you do not get paid as an official ‘volunteer’, each data site is allocated $120 to go towards a charity or NGO that you can nominate. as well as contributing to supporting and informing productive bicycle use in your local area.  It is not a particularly taxing activity, on the contrary, it is a great day out. As a data collector, you get to see and meet lots of like-minded people in your area, brag to your mates that you were out making a difference to make their daily rides better – and there is also the bonus that you are actively contributing to generating data and outcomes that are integral to the maintenance and sustainability of future bicycle use for everyone Australia wide.

 

Get involved!

I STRONGLY urge you to get involved.

If you have not already registered to count, please consider doing so – take a mate or the family and make a morning of it.

Or conversely, make and extra point this Sunday to get out on your bike and ride paths in the locales listed below to get counted as many times as possible to add your “voice’ to increase investment in urban bicycle facilities.

The paths most focused on for these counts are key recreational paths, particularly along waterways, beaches and parks – so get out there on your two wheels!

 

Register here

For more info, check out the Super Counts – see the Bicycle Network.

Source: Bicycle Network
Source: Bicycle Network

Areas involved for the 2016 Sunday Super count

NSW

  • Canterbury- Bankstown
  • Inner West
  • Lake Macquarie
  • Northern Beaches
  • Parramatta
  • Randwick
  • Southerland Shire

NT

  • Darwin

QLD

  • Whitsunday

SA

  • Mitcham
  • Norwood Payneham St Peters

VIC

  • Ballarat
  • Boroondara
  • Frankston
  • Greater Bendigo
  • Greater Dandenong
  • Greater Geelong
  • Hobson’s Bay
  • Maribyrnong
  • Melbourne
  • Monash
  • Moonee Valley
  • Nillumbik
  • Stonnington
  • Whitehorse
  • Wyndham
  • Yarra
  • Yarra Ranges

WA

  • Perth
  • Cockburn
  • Cottlesloe
  • Fremantle
  • Mandurah

 

Source: Bicycle Network
Source: Bicycle Network

Griffith BUGs (Bicycle Users Group)

Yesterday I did something that I have never done before.I rode to work with the Griffith BUGs (Bicycle Users Group).

There is a back story to this. Last month, I meet up with for breakfast with some cyclists (who I’d never met before) who work at my campus, to celebrate the Ride to Work Day 2016. I work at Griffith University (NA) and it was the first time that I had deliberately connected to other cyclists at my workplace. No one in the office I work at rides bikes, so it was a good opportunity to meet up with some new people in different departments from mine, who ride to work.

I arrived late for breakfast, but still with enough time to have a chat and exchange contact details with one of the organisers of this group dubbed Griffith University BUG (Bicycle Users Group). On the Ride to Work Day, they mentioned that once a month they meet-up at 7 am in Brisbane city and ride together out to Nathan Campus and then have breakfast. I was invited to join them.

 

Tuesday morning ride to work from Brisbane city

So yesterday I joined them. It was the first time that I had ridden from the city centre to Nathan. I ride from my house the Uni campus, which is about 28 kms each way, but it does not go anywhere near the city (in fact almost in the opposite direction). So it was good to go with a group heading out of town to see what route they took and to widen my orientation about the surrounding bike routes.

I usually avoid the city, but for this ride, I made an exception. We met at the Goodwill Bridge, and after waiting alongside another group for more than myself and another rider to arrive, we finally realised that the group of other eight riders who were waiting across the road were actually the other riders we were waiting for! So we introduced ourselves, teamed up and got started on our journey in high spirits.

It was an interesting dynamic for me. I have had the winter off road riding and heard about some bad accidents. I was wrestling with inner safety demons and was happy that the group took the bike path route and not the road. It was great to see so many cyclists riding into the city and whizzing past, but also also a little treacherous trying to navigate the steady stream of riders turning in all directions and coming on and off the bridge and funnelling into the city. There was a lot going on and I  really had concentrate. I had forgotten that it can be a tricky on high-volume trails, crossing busy streets en masse, traversing bridges wiht lots of others, and weaving in and out of tight, steep corners. It had been a long time since I had ridden inner city peak hour – so, I was much more relaxed when we started heading out a little further and the intensity – and density – of bike users settled down a little.

likeey_m

                                                                                                                                              Source: @likeey_m

Riding with the Griffith BUGs

I was surprised at how quick the trip took and it was useful to learn where certain turn offs and link ups were. I was happy cruising with the main group, chatting and meeting a few new folk. It was good to hear the riding gossip about a new bike trail development, the completion of which is anyone’s guess. It was nice to ride at a leisurely pace and although there were different levels of ability, the group was cohesive and attentive and waited at opportune times for this behind, but not to the point of holding up the group up as a result.

There is a long, consistent hill right at the end, right near the final turn off to the Uni. I like pushing up it. At the risk of looking like a competitive wanker, I kept a steady, but respectable tempo on the way up with another rider– just enough to feel the reminder twang of a physical challenge set by a mate the day before. I rode with a few to the cafe on campus and I arrived happy, relaxed and very content.

 

Breakfast at work

At breakfast, the conversation was lighthearted and engaging. I was invited for another social ride in the city on Saturday night. I sat there at breakfast enjoying the camaraderie and marvelled as I usually do, at how an artefact such as the humble bicycle can be so effective at bringing such seemingly disparate people together. It was a real pleasure to ride to work with the Griffith BUGs, and I appreciated their friendly and inclusive nature.

I felt very welcomed and safe – and I had a lovely time riding with them and getting back on the roadie. I though that this is exactly what the Ride to Work event is for, not just riding one day to work, but building positive relationships and lifestyle habits where active transportation to the workplace is encouraged, promoted and shared. I thought it was a very successful follow-up to the original event day and I was delighted to have been invited. I was also glad that I made an effort to go or a ride with the Griffith BUGs. It was a great start to the day and to blow out the roadie cobwebs.

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The Need for Tweed

Guest blog post by Bear Racy.  

Bear is a cycling enthusiast, intrepid traveller, social commentator, artist and lover of life. In this post, Bear provides an alternative histo-cultural commentary on Tweed themed bike rides.


The Need For Tweed?

Even when done tongue-in-cheek, the popularity of hipsters wearing tweed and riding bikes together smacks of some kind of post-colonial irony. Why do we feel the need, the need for tweed?

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On the 5th of November, the Wellington Bay area (NZ) was the latest participant in the growing trend of ‘tweed’ themed bicycle rides. Pitched by Bicycle Junction (NZ) as an event that celebrates the “inherent style and grace of one of the most enduring of humankind’s inventions in the fashion it was intended to be celebrated”, the ‘Need for Tweed’ bicycle ride saw a return to the itchy clothing made from herringbone woven wool known as Tweed.

 

All about Tweed.

Tweed was popularized by the Edwardian middle class because of its association with the outdoor activities of the leisurely elite. Apart from its grandiose connotations, tweed is a vintage outdoor textile that is moisture resistant and durable – great for cycling, hunting and riding in the cold British weather.

Once considered expensive and highly sought after, tweed signified that you had the time and the money to afford the most cutting edge of textiles, so you could spend your days hunting and riding in the upmost comfort. From this ideal of leisure came the idealization of leisure as a look, which became fashion. Fashion then drove those less well-off to emulate the image, if not the lifestyle, of their tweed slathered betters.

In the 40’s silk jerseys started to replace tweed in cycling and was invented just in time for the blossoming post-war marketing industry to realise that in the world of television advertising, cyclists could make a prominent moving billboard.  The silk jersey was brightly coloured to attract attention to the marketing and to identify the rider within the group. This became particularly useful in televised bicycle races where the spectator was able to easily pinpoint a rider by their jersey. Move forward to the invention of lycra and the colours and marketing have remained. Like tweed, you again have a cutting edge textile used in cycling to promote the comfort of the rider.

Loving Lycra.

At its advent, Lycra symbolised that you were a competitive rider at the pinnacle of your sport -it’s form hugging capabilities leaving no room to hide the sagging beer gut of an amateur, or disguise the gender of the wearer in a sport that at the time was dominated by males.

Wearing lycra meant you were a serious rider. Festooned with the logos of the top cycling brands, lycra began to move out of competitive sport and into fashion.  Like tweed, it became popularised because of it’s association as a textile worn by the elite. And like the tweed wearing Edwardians, this elite was characterised by a group of white males that had the time and the money to indulge seriously in a sport clad in the best textile technology of the time.

As lycra became more commonly available, it started to lose popularity. Perhaps in part because in our modern society, wearing lycra is as naked as you are allowed to be in public, and when worn by a group of middle-aged men, slogging it up a hill, is can be a scary sight to behold.  It could also be due to the common misconception that groups of lycra clad riders will be unaware of, or deliberately flout road rules, thus hindering the traffic rights of the predominant car.

The main reason I believe that lycra is becoming less popular in the community bike ride is because of its association with elitism in cycling. That is to say; it’s not unpopular because it is being worn by elite riders, but that it is being worn by riders that want to be considered elite.

Ride on.

In cycling, there is a distasteful underbelly fuelled by a competitive seriousness that promotes an attitude of exclusivity, where only the fastest riders with the best equipment are encouraged.

Unfortunately, participants are usually upper to middle-class men, and despite the best intentions of the sport, this stereotype seems set to continue with events like the Tour de France, Giro Italy and Tour Down Under, where there is limited focus on the access, inclusion and promotion of women and cyclists from multicultural (non-Western/European) backgrounds.

The costumed ride is the antithesis to this trend, proving you don’t need fancy gear and a jersey full of logos to get on a bike and have fun.

By having a dress-up theme for a ride, organisers can create a sense of fun and silliness, while also providing an atmosphere of cohesion.  Having the option to wear a themed costume creates a more open inclusive dynamic in a group, suggesting that any and all are welcome.

The need for tweed?

So why choose tweed? I can understand that it’s meant to celebrate and idealise the invention of the bicycle and that on the surface it looks pretty darn classy when worn en-mass, but the deeper connotations of tweed and the inherent sexism and exclusivity that come with it, could arguably be also perpetuating some of the worse traits that have dominated cycling culture for the last century.

If you look at the advertising for many of the tweed-themed rides, the repeated depiction is a white guy on a bicycle, while many of the flyers and media for other themed rides are (one would hope) inadvertently exclusive.

 

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Most of the promotional material and media for tweed rides is independently generated and created in a diverse range of locations globally, demonstrating the insidious nature of exclusivity that is still so predominant in cycling culture. It gives evidence to the inherent sexism that is part of the hipster renaissance around cycling; that promotes a certain stereotype of the ideal rider. It is this stereotype alone that defeats the purpose of the community ride.

Why are groups of community riders trying to separate themselves from a culture of elitist white males on bikes, by celebrating a historical group of elite white males on bikes?

Comfort is key.

Most important when dressing for cycling, is ease of movement and protection from the elements. While wearing a great costume would warrant a certain amount of ill ease, the idea of wearing woollen cycling clothing that when wet, would turn into a personal sauna, (also known as an itchy moist skin sack) is my idea of hell on wheels. So why go back to tweed? Who would actually feel the need for tweed?

I suppose there is a certain amount of irony involved in hosting a bike ride as an inclusive event that celebrates an era of cycling epitomised by a time in human history when a bunch of English dudes owned everything and lived off the backs of the less fortunate.  It could even be that this irony makes the ‘moustache competitions and gender specific costume awards’ a subversive form of protest, but that message is lost on me.

As we experience a culture increasingly being ruled by hipster trends and shifting memes, the irony of the ironic is so muddled, that all anyone can do is ride – and wait for good weather and the next naked bike ride.

 

Homewood Witches Ride

Halloween

I do not celebrate Halloween for a number of reasons (least of all we are in Australia!) and that’s why there was no ‘Halloween’ post for 30-31st October.  However, I appreciate that it can be a big deal for other people and that it is most certainly an American tradition. So, I found an American Halloween event, called the Homewood Witches Ride, that was squarely bike and community inspired, and that had the kind of positive community slant on the standard Halloween celebrations to warrant a second look. So, although there was no post on Halloween, here is an authentic, fun, bicycle-inspired Halloween celebration event (as a postscript).

 

Homewood Witches Ride

There are similar versions of this event in various forms elsewhere (most notably on motorbikes), but this particular ride was established by Janie Ford Meyer in memory of her mum, Paula, who in 2013 died of lung cancer. Essentially, instead of brooms, the ‘witches’ decorate their bikes and dress up each year as a way of celebrating Halloween, to support a national charity and imbued the community with some colour, fun and mobile festivities.

Now in its fourth year, hundreds of Homewood local women (and women from the surrounding towns and wider afield) got together in the town of Homewood (Alabama) for this year’s annual Homewood Witches Ride held on 30th October.

 

The Main Ride

The main event runs from about 4-6pm with the official ride starting at 4.30 pm and lasting about an hour to do a full loop of town. It is well timed not to be a late night for families and small kids as many who come to support the event are also dressed up, and so much excitement can make for a long afternoon!

The two-mile ride encompasses the main parts of the town, and families and locals line the streets to cheer the witches on. There are two designated ‘candy zones’ where the witches throw out lollies to the crowd. This aspect has been strategically designed so that it is easier to clean up afterwards and is it also makes it safer for the riders, but more importantly, it means onlookers can choose which positions best suit what they want to get out of the event – so that families with young kids can go to designated candy areas, whilst others can spread themselves out elsewhere – great idea!

After the ride is complete, all are invited to join the witches and locals at a central hub where there are food vans and other social festivities, such as a silent auction. Prizes are awarded for the ‘best witch costume’ and ‘the best broom bike’.

At the cost of US$25 for entry, all proceeds go to raise money for the American Cancer Society. The ride is now very popular, with hundreds of witches taking a slow ride around town entertaining, joking, laughing, and a generally having a cracking good time.

 

Community colour and vibrancy

I can see how this event would be a lot of fun. There seems to be a rise in community-supported, artbike, dress-up, ride events that are widely popular (most recently, The ArtBike Grand Prix and the SSWC 2016 (although this one is not for a charity).

It is inspiring and reaffirming to be part of an active community that supports such greater events. Such occasions are so important in re/defining, co-creating and maintaining a positive community identity, demonstrating inclusiveness and helping to build a dynamic local cultural tradition. It is wonderful to see such enthusiasm, acceptance and exuberance being shared on two-wheels by so many. Keep up the good work all!

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Source: Unless identified as per Instagram all other pictures from The Homewood Star.

 

Here is a video from last year’s event:

 

Melbourne Artbike Grand Prix

 Prescript: I was so excited about the cruelty-free Melbourne Artbike Grand Prix when I posted this, but have just found out (6.40pm on 1st Nov) that this event got postponed because of rain!!  What a bummer! It has been (tentatively TBC ) moved to 10th Dec –  but the awesomeness still rates, so here it is!! NG.

Today is the Melbourne Cup.

I was impressed to see that the Coburg Velodrome is holding a animal-free alternative to Melbourne Cup, by offering the inaugural Melbourne Artbike Grand Prix. If only I was still living in Melbourne!!!

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Community event

This event is most certainly a community activity. First conceived by Bradley Ogden (Tower of Babel Burning Seed 2015 and Synesthesia), this is a wonderfully designed event encouraging active participation. It is a very well thought out and promoted event. From the gorgeous graphic design by Lauren Massy of @masseydesign (as seen above in social and media and online promotions) to the clear and informative website content, this is an exemplar bicycle inspired community event.

I hope they have a massive turn out, have far too much fun and the event is an outrageous success and is held for many years to come!!

For me it ticks all the boxes; supporting respectful and ethical lifestyle choices that do not harm animals, supports a charity in a productive and meaningful way, advocates for increased positive bike use, uses local cycling facilities in an innovative way that draws people to the location, has teamwork and creativity as a participatory prerequisite, is a celebration of ideas and expressions that are unusual, personal and innovative, supports a bicycle charity, creates a space for the community to come together to interact, share, have fun and be creative with unique bicycles as the central focus, and a whole host of other benefits – what more could you want?

 

Melbourne Artbike Grand Prix

All are welcome to come on the day to spectate and be part of the event. To enter, you need a team of 4 people to register ($25 per person, $100 per team), you fill out a survey and then create your art bike. As long as you follow the race rules and your bike passes the race check – you are good to compete in a relay style knock-out competition! Riders need to interchange after each lap and the first team over the line advances to the next round. There is also a solo category.  Any profits made on the day go directly to  Bicycles for Humanity.

 

Artbikes

By definition, an artbike can be cosmetically altered or purpose built – it is only limited by the owner/creators imagination. As a lover and producer of artbikes, I am particularly excited about this event. For this event, the focus is on producing creative, fun and inspirational bikes that met the criteria to enter and complete the event.

 

More info on the event:

All details are on their website where you can check the About page, Get Involved (Race, Create, Donate), Registration, Partners and the Event.  There is also a blog page.

The event blog page gives details about:

  • Some inspirational artbike pictures
  • What an art bike actually is
  • What to expect from the Grand Prix
  • Support for Bicycles for Humanity
  • Ticketing
  • Event location and timing

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Bicycles for Humanity

Aside from being a brilliant day out, promoting bicycles and providing an ethical alternative to ‘riding’ to the pervasive horse racing Spring Carnival Festival, this event is a collaboration also to support Bicycles for Humanity. Aside from the event supporting this charity, there are also options to the community to support Bicycles for Humanity either financially or by bringing bikes on the day to donate.

From their website, Bicycles For Humanity explain their volunteer-run, grassroots charity organisation as being focused on the alleviation of poverty through sustainable transport – in the form of a bike.

Source: Bicycles for Humanity
Source: Bicycles for Humanity

 

They do this essentially by collecting bicycles in develop countries and shipping them developing nations so that “each of the 40 ft shipping containers that Bicycles For Humanity sends becomes a bike workshop – providing employment, skills, training, business, opportunity and economic development for the community in which it’s placed. Each of these Bicycle Empowerment Centres (BEC) becomes a self-sustaining entity – fitting very cleanly into the model of micro-financed small business that is lately seen as one of the central ways for the developing world to move away from aid dependence”.

I wish them the best of luck, would be attending with bells on if I was in Melbourne. I cannot wait to see some pictures!

For any follow-ups email: melbourne@artbikegrandprix.

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